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The bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, strumming, tapping, thumping, or picking with a plectrum, often known as a pick.

Bass guitar
J&J Precision Bass “Roi du Soleil” (JJ004).jpg
A Fender Precision Bass-style instrument
String instrument
Other names Bass, electric bass guitar, electric bass
Classification String instrument (fingered or picked; strummed)
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Inventor(s) Paul Tutmarc, Leo Fender
Developed 1930s
Playing range
Range contrabass.png
(a standard tuned 4-string bass guitar)
Related instruments
Musicians
  • List of bass guitarists

The bass guitar (also called electric bass, or simply bass) is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, strumming, tapping, thumping, or picking with a plectrum, often known as a pick.

The bass guitar is similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, but with a longer neck and scale length, and four to six strings or courses. The four-string bass, by far the most common, is usually tuned the same as the double bass, which corresponds to pitches one octave lower than the four lowest pitched strings of a guitar (E, A, D, and G). The bass guitar is a transposing instrument, as it is notated in bass clef an octave higher than it sounds (as is the double bass) to avoid excessive ledger lines. Like the electric guitar, the bass guitar has pickups and it is plugged into an amplifier and speaker on stage, or into a larger PA system using a DI unit, for live performances.

Since the 1960s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music as the bass instrument in the rhythm section. While types of basslines vary widely from one style of music to another, the bassist usually fulfills a similar role: anchoring the harmonic framework and establishing the beat. Many styles of music utilise the bass guitar, including rock, heavy metal, pop, punk rock, country, reggae, gospel, blues, symphonic rock, and jazz. It is often a solo instrument in jazz, jazz fusion, Latin, funk, progressive rock and other rock and metal styles.